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Showing posts with label unionists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unionists. Show all posts

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Allan Massie and patriotism - who are the scoundrels?

Allan Massie had a piece in The Scotsman yesterday entitled False patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

His piece was inspired, if that’s the right word, by Ian Davidson’s description in the Commons of the SNP as neo-fascist. Massie appears to set out to defend the SNP against the charge. I waited for the ‘but’: it turned out to be a ‘nevertheless’, when he finally gets to his real agenda in the third column and the sixth paragraph.

“Nevertheless, there is one respect in which his accusation, however offensive, merits consideration.”

He focuses, not on SNP party officials, MSPs, MPs or commentators sympathetic to the SNP to support his charge, but on cybernats, a blanket term used pejoratively by unionists for any online commentator sympathetic to the nationalist cause. Since by definition online comment includes the spectrum of opinion from the moderate and considered to raving abuse, he will have no difficulty in finding such stuff, especially in The Scotsman’s online comment, which is ineptly and badly moderated by the newspaper itself, apparently using post moderation (and not much of that) rather than pre-moderation of comments. I stopped contributing online comment to The Scotsman for this very reason some time ago, after complaining unsuccessfully about this.

(The SNP government is bringing in a bill, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications {Scotland} Bill, to create two new criminal offences, the second of which concerns the sending or posting on the web of threatening communications of a religious nature, just one pernicious aspect of online abuse.)

Massie manages to ignore the fact of equivalent raving abuse from supporters of the union in The Scotsman, not to mention that mouthpiece of the Union, The Telegraph, where it even invades the letters section of the print edition. He takes issue with one aspect of nationalist comment,  the questioning of the patriotism of non-nationalists, and the tendency of nationalists to describe unionists as quislings.

This ugly word  entered the language during and after the Second World War, derived from Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian politician who collaborated with the Nazi occupation of Norway, ran the Quisling Regime on behalf of the Nazis, and was executed for high treason by his countrymen in 1945. The word now means a person cooperating with an occupying enemy, a collaborator, a traitor. It is certainly too extreme an appellation to give to a political opponent or to someone holding an office, such as Secretary of State for Scotland, that is perceived as having some parallels to the Quisling role.

I don’t think of myself as a cybernat, but I confess to having been tempted to draw such a comparison, and on occasion may have yielded to it, or come close, by loose use of the term.

For the comparison to be valid, the end of the Union and the independence of Scotland would have to be demonstrably the democratic wish of a majority of the Scottish people, that wish would have to have been denied or frustrated by the UK government, by either ignoring a democratic mandate or gerrymandering the political process, e.g. through the mechanics of a referendum, and the Secretary of State for Scotland would have had to be complicit in that process, something that hasn’t happened - yet.

So, I join with Allan Massie in condemning the indiscriminate use of the word quisling to describe the office of Secretary of State for Scotland, although I find nothing to admire or respect in that institution, the contemptible record of which has been documented in Diomhair and elsewhere. I have no respect whatsoever for Scots who choose to accept that office, and will rejoice when it disappears. Until that happens, I will continue to treat it and its incumbents with the contempt I feel they deserve.

I make an exception for the honourable memory of Tom Johnston, wartime Secretary of State for Scotland, the last and perhaps the only incumbent of that role to have acted totally in the interests of Scotland. A socialist, an internationalist and a great Scot by any measures, the things he achieved for his country - and he was never in doubt that it was Scotland - are beyond question.

Allan Massie manages in his piece to move seamlessly from appearing to condemn Ian Davidson’s unfortunate remark, as a Member of Parliament under privilege in the House of Commons, to conflating the most extreme remarks of sundry anonymous online posters to draw parallels between  some Scottish nationalists and Hitler’s Germany, anti-semitism, Franco’s Spain, and to describe them as “at least proto-fascists”.

I have something to offer Allan Massie that may assist him in understanding fascism, and identifying political behaviour that tends towards that ugly and, George Orwell notwithstanding, completely identifiable tendency.

Fascist states are obsessively militaristic in character, consuming a wholly disproportionate part of their national resources on armaments.

They appeal to a nostalgic and glorious past that has little to do with present social and economic realities.

They exalt the Head of State, whether monarch or dictator, and claim either a hereditary or nepotistic right to succession in key offices of state.

They maintain the semblance of a democracy, while effectively nullifying, or as they describe it, ‘balancing’ the democratic institutions with non-democratic, unelected bodies.

They have key linkages between the military and relevant sections of industry in a military/industrial complex. Defence procurement is perceived by the public as incompetent, when in fact it is mainly corrupt, and unfailingly enriches the politicians associated with it.

They claim a right to intervene by force in the affairs of other nation states, and occupy them, always with the claim that they are acting in the interests of the people of the occupied territories.

They have a cult of blood, death and sacrifice in which the Head of State plays a major role. They exalt the dead as heroes of the nation: the children of the governing elite are rarely if ever among the dead. They drape the coffins of the dead with flags.

They are given to militaristic displays at any and every opportunity. They blatantly use military contracts and jobs as a political lever to influence the vestiges of true democracy that remain in the state apparatus.

When the voice of the people is heard, either through popular protest or electoral success, a sustained attack is made by the fascist state on the legitimacy of such protest and electoral success, and the democratic mandate is challenged frontally. The fascist state exercise significant or total control over media.

The fascist state has an elaborate system of patronage, titles and honours to sustain its power and to limit the democratic mandate where it exists.

The fascist state will sacrifice any public service rather than contain its military ambitions or curtail the profits and privileged of the rich and powerful. It deeply distrusts the public services of the nation. It readily blames the poor and the vulnerable for the ills of the nation and holds them responsible for their own miseries.

All of the above characteristics are either currently present or developing in the state of the United Kingdom.

None of them are present in Scottish nationalism, the Scottish National Party, nor in the vast majority of its supporters.

Let me end by saying that I am in fundamental agreement with Allan Massie on one thing - false patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and I am clear on who the scoundrels are, even if he is not.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The referendum question - more comments make Moore look increasingly isolated

The Scottish National Party said that Scottish Secretary Michael Moore was in an "ever more lonely place" over his personal position that two referendums on independence would be required, as University of Edinburgh and Constitution Unit academic Alan Trench said on BBC Radio Scotland this morning that this proposal was "very problematic" (having been a supporter of the idea), while former Lib Dem councillors who have defected to the SNP said that the Lib Dems have become "the Tories' face in Scotland".

And in the Scotsman newspaper today Professor Stephen Tierney, Director of the Centre for Constitutional Law at Edinburgh University, said that: "But let's be clear, there is no constitutional requirement for a second referendum following negotiations."

Commenting on Alan Trench's remarks, SNP Campaign Director Angus Robertson MP said: "Michael Moore has blundered into this, and finds himself in an ever more lonely place, as Alan Trench - who has been an advocate of Mr Moore's idea - says that he is “unhappy with the implications of a two-referendum approach”, and that it is “politically very problematic”. “It is a daft idea without constitutional precedent, and very bad politics for the Lib Dems in Scotland."

South of Scotland SNP MSP, Chic Brodie, who was a member of the Liberals and LibDems for 36 years, a former member of their Scottish Executive, and stood aside for the SDP's Roy Jenkins to fight and win the Glasgow Hillhead by-election in 1983, said:

"The Lib Dems have gone from the party of federalism in Scotland to a ridiculous Tory notion called 'muscular unionism'. No wonder so many former Lib Dem supporters voted SNP in the election, and why elected Lib Dem members are now moving to the SNP.

"This is the latest example of a party which now has no principles. We've seen it with tuition fees, with VAT and with their support for Tory cuts. We saw it when they said they wanted to abolish the position of Scottish Secretary, then comfortably took up the role of the Tories' man in Scotland. Now we are seeing them abandon their support for maximum devolution."

A former LibDem councillor in Renfrewshire Cllr Marie McGurk, who joined the SNP in May and is now an SNP councillor, said:

"It was LibDem MPs from Scotland giving up on their principles and allying with the Tories in London that led me to join the SNP. They left me unable, in all conscience, to continue my membership of the party.

"The comments by Michael Moore just show I right I was. I am sure this latest example of abandoning liberal democratic principles will be the last straw for many other LibDem members."

Another former LibDem councillor from Renfrewshire who also defected to the SNP last month, Cllr Mike Dillon, said:

"Instead of supporting the Scottish Government to acquire the powers for the Scottish Parliament, which they previously supported, the LibDems at Westminster have just become spokespersons for David Cameron's Tory-led government. Sadly, the Lib Dems are now just the Tories' face in Scotland.

"Many LibDem members will now be questioning what has happened to the party under the likes of Michael Moore and Danny Alexander. They will be seriously questioning if they can continue with so many sell outs of long held principles just to be in office with the Tories at Westminster."

Cllr Glynis Sinclair, a former LibDem turned independent in the Highlands who joined the SNP last month, said:

"It is never easy to change to another political party but it became clear, even before the last Westminster election, that the Liberal Democrats were losing touch with ordinary people in the Highlands.

"Michael Moore's comments just show how they have gone from being the Highland party of Home Rule to one that bears more resemblance to the Tory Party which ignored Scotland's wishes in the 1980s and 1990s.

"I can see many remaining members of the LibDems asking just why their party cannot even stand up for their own policies on more powers for the Scottish Parliament."


1. On BBC Radio Good Morning Scotland today, Alan Trench said: "I have to say I find myself unhappy with the implications of a two-referendum approach. I think that while constitutionally it has a good deal to be said for it, politically it's very problematic."

2. [Michael] Moore said: "We will not be bringing forward a referendum ourselves, it's entirely a matter for the Scottish Government."

Press Association, 8th May 2011

3. Professor Matt Qvortrup has been described as the "world's leading expert on referendums".

Professor Qvortrup, in the Scotsman of 29th March 2007:

"There has been a great deal of debate and discussion in recent times over the question of the Scottish Parliament holding a referendum on independence. Like any other parliament, the Scottish Parliament would be quite entitled to do so if its members so desired.

"In the United Kingdom, all referendums are advisory, though if the Scottish people did vote for independence in a referendum that met normal democratic standards, Westminster would be obliged to recognise that result.

"There are no examples of two referendums being held before independence was granted."


Professor Stephen Tierney - comments in the Scotsman.

How Scotland will decide its future

referendum: the process of referring a political decision to the electorate for a direct decision by general vote

Well, that clears that up then. Not in Michael Moore’s mind it doesn’t, nor in the murky, expedient, panic-stricken, confused, unscrupulous depths of the unionist Establishment, for which Moore is the mouthpiece - as every Secretary of State for Scotland has always been - with the Telegraph is the house organ.

Before coming to the Scottish papers, it is useful to contrast the Telegraph with the Times on this ‘story’, since both papers considered Moore’s witterings to be worthy of the front page headline.

The Telegraph headline presents the issue authoritatively as a statement of fact - Scotland will need second poll to leave UK - supported by two equally confident sub-header bullet points - Moore: SNP referendum ‘advisory’ only and Commons to fix second ballot question.

This assertive tone continues in the Leader article - Westminster fights back -and quotes Moore as having Downing Street approval.

The bearded rumbler, Alan Cochrane, brings his basso profundo (profundo in pitch only, not in ideas or quality of analysis) to bear with - Moore’s tough talk finally puts paid to the bogus SNP ‘respect agenda’

The Times, which has a true, objective journalist as political editor, Angus Macleod, also leads with the story, but is more circumspect, and its headline reads Scots ‘will have to vote twice on independence’, recognising by the use of quotes that this is a briefing statement by one figurehead, the Scottish Secretary. It underlines this point in its sub-header - Scottish Secretary claims that two referendums must be held.

The detailed, balanced objective reporting that follows, typical of Angus Macleod’s entire approach to journalism, sets out the facts and the arguments, and explores in some detail the vital question of whether or not this is Government policy, quoting Downing Street’s apparent rebuttal of Alex Salmond’s claim that Moore did not speak for Cameron -

A No 10 spokesman said: “The constitution is one of the many areas the UK Government is responsible for in Scotland and the Secretary of State’s comments reflect that fact.”

Close examination of this statement shows that it  is a long way from explicit support for Moore’s briefing. It simply says that Moore had a right to comment on matters affecting Scotland. Had Cameron wished to offer support publically, he could have made a statement of support personally. My view is that they are cautiously flying kites. Lurking in the background is our old friend Vernon Bogdanor, Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford, who chooses to paint terrifying - and entirely irrelevant - parallels with Ireland in the 1920s and the Czech/Slovak “divorce settlement” in 1993.

The Times and Angus Macleod also quote a balancing expert view from Professor Matt Qvortrup of Cranfield University, who believes one referendum is enough, and is on record as saying that no country in the world that has moved to independence has required more than one.

No such balancing views are presented by the Telegraph, who present this farrago of nonsense as legal and constitutional fact. Their Leader comment doesn’t even pretend to be  objective, cheerleading Moore on in his ‘fightback’, using highly coloured and emotive language. The bearded growler rampages across this territory in his commentary piece, with an attack on Alex Salmond in virtually every paragraph.

The Scotsman, which in many regards - in spite of its belated support for the SNP in the final stages of the election campaign - sometimes sounds like the Scottish Telegraph, unionism in a kilt, essentially mirrors the Telegraph approach to the Moore statement.

Its headline baldy states Two referendums needed for UK split, with the sub-header Salmond reacts with insults as Scots (sic) Secretary insists  independence vote.

The Colonial governor (with no mandate whatsoever) has spoken and, in spite of 'insults’ from ‘Salmond’ (not from the First Minister of Scotland, recently elected with a decisive mandate by the Scottish people) that’s that - there will be two referendums.

However, the Scotsman calms down a little inside on page  4, and presents a balanced report, with a welcome highlighted box entitled Double poll a radical change, which effectively demonstrates how ludicrously inappropriate a second referendum would be, totally without precedent.

The Herald doesn’t lead with the story, and just gives a wee front page lead-in  - Referendum row - to a substantial piece on page 7. It also gives a highlighted likely timetable for independence, with a date 0f 2019 for final achievement. This is may be realistic, but I find it depressingly long, and hope for a much shorter lead-in than this, since it reduces the likelihood of me seeing my country independent in my lifetime. I hope my impatience is matched by the impatience of the young Scots who want their freedom now and have watched other countries achieve it much more swiftly than this.

The other significant fact is that the UK government will attempt to bog the process down, and even frustrate it, with bureaucratic delays and nit-picking. They will try to turn Scotland’s independence into another Edinburgh trams project, where the lines are laid, the business of the capital disrupted, but due to unforeseen works below ground and the inability to resolve difference, the whole thing is shelved indefinitely.

The long journey to Scottish independence has been a slow, careful one with many setbacks, but characterised throughout by patient democratic process and rational argument, relying on the ballot box to achieve the ultimate goal.

With the exception of a few incidents in the 1950s during the EIIR pillar box rows, involving a few misguided youths and some very sinister agents provocateur and dubious special Branch involvement, (see Diomhair’s account of this period) the nationalist movement has been completely free of violence and direct action.

It must be kept that way, because the British Establishment has a long, contemptible record when it comes to trying to suppress the wishes of their subject peoples to be free, in India, in Rhodesia, in Kenya and of course in Ireland - a record that includes the use of agents provocateur to instigate acts of political violence that were then used to justify repressive force in response, and the suspension of democratic procedures and legal rights.

Two dangers exist in the present state of panic among the unionist establishment and their compliant media shills - one is that, in their confusion they overplay their hand in opposing independence, the other is that they are deliberately provocative. Both would have the same dangerous results - a growing resentment among those supporting Scottish independence, especially the young supporters, and a growing impatience with democratic processes.

The young live in a world where they see subject peoples seizing their freedom with great courage and personal sacrifice, often at the risk of their own lives. They believe, however, that they live in  a civilised, free democracy with a free press and media, where such radical measures are not necessary. But if they are regularly given evidence that they are mistaken in these beliefs, that their media are not as free as they thought, that their democratic rights and processes are being distorted and manipulated, that their democratically elected leaders are being treated with contempt, and that their legitimate aspirations are being suppressed, then they will find different routes to their goal.

Radical social and political change belongs to the young, not to the old. It also belongs to the activist, not to the silent majority, the Nixonian idea of a group in the body politic that will do anything for their beliefs except act on them. No revolution, velvet or otherwise, was accomplished by old men. However intellectually conceived, change is carried forward by the young.

The Middle East revolution caught the Western power brokers entirely by surprise. All their intelligence, all their analysis, all their careful realpolitik was turned upside down by events driven by the young, and they are now running behind the movement of history.

A great and legitimate expectancy has been created by the mandate given to the nationalists on May 6th 2011. It may well create a tide in the affairs of Scotland that will accelerate at a pace that takes both nationalist politicians and unionist politicians by surprise. I don’t think the young want to wait till 2019 for their freedom and I know that I don’t.

Unionists - don’t play with fire!  Nationalists - speed up your timetable and your game! History won’t wait and the young won’t wait …